GroupLife Idealists & Pragmatists

Share via:

How would you describe yourself?  Are you more of an idealist?  Someone who cherishes and pursues noble goals and purposes?  Or would you describe yourself as more of a pragmatist?  Really all about how to get results?

I’ve had conversations over the years with small group practitioners from all stripes (cell church, metachurch, free market, semester-based, sermon-based, G12, connecting church, and campaign-driven).  I have good friends in every camp.  But when I have a conversation, it almost always comes down to a discussion about results.  It doesn’t start there.  It starts with big dreams.  It usually starts with an idealism and a little disconnect with what is actually happening.  It’s right here that two things can fall into place:

First, I’ll sometimes refer to the great Steven Levitt line about global warming:

Forget about what you believe may be true.  Forget about what you hope may true.  Instead just look at what’s actually happening.

Second, I’ll make sure we spend a little time working through the fact that the pursuit of problem-free is the number one delay in ministry.

Having finished that discussion, I explain that:

However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.

  • It’s about asking tough questions.  I love this question from Roger Martin’s Design of Business:

What would have to be true for that approach to work?

It is one thing to have dreams about a group multiplication strategy that grows by apprenticing leaders.  It’s one thing to hold forth on the advantages of the closed group model and talk about the benefits to the members of those groups.  Still…at the end of the day…it’s important to wrestle well with the question, “How’s it working?”

What do you think? Are you an idealist or a pragmatist? Want to argue? Got a question? You can click here to jump into the conversation.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Eddie Mosley on April 12, 2011 at 11:22 am

    Mark, I guess you know by now that I would land on the pragmatist side. It sometimes frustrates the people around me that I do not spend a lot of time debating the issues but contemplate practical steps that will make the vision a reality. EM

  2. Anonymous on April 12, 2011 at 11:26 am

    Thanks Eddie! I am not surprised one bit. In my experience, most longtime practitioners tend to be more pragmatic.


  3. Randall on April 12, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    I’m a little of both because that’s healthy to me. Practical to make it work in the here and now, but idealistic so we can move beyond what Scott Boren calls “normal” group life.

  4. Anonymous on April 12, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    Thanks for jumping in here Randall! And there is something healthy about a blend, isn’t there? Good insight!


  5. Adam on April 12, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    I have been more of an idealist up to this point, but almost 2 years into leading our Group system I am becoming more a of pragmatist. My guess is the longer I do this the more pragmatic I will become!

    A big question for me right now is certainly “Is this working?” and then making changes as needed.

    One of the biggest for me is connection strategy, we have been doing menu style signups and that worked fine when we had 8 groups, but with 25 now it’s no longer managable! heading toward a group connection strategy to combat it.

    Idealogy works great until the real world smacks you in the face, lol

  6. Anonymous on April 12, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    Thanks for jumping in here Adam! There is truth to what you’re saying, for sure. With experience, comes a pragmatic approach. If we can retain some aspiration of getting to where we only dream of getting (150% of our weekend adult attendance connected, for example), that’s the blend that Randall spoke of.